Flood Victims Wary of Aid

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

"What do I fix first and how do I fix it? There's no money."
Anne Townsend stands in her Rockford basement facing a cracked foundation and crumbling hope.
"The only people they're helping out are the people who literally have lost everything. What about those of us stuck in the middle who literally are teetering on bankruptcy," says Townsend.
FEMA hopes it has the answer. Representatives say their new disaster recovery centers help find something for everyone. FEMA can offer up to $28,200 in grant money per household. That can be used for home repairs, or fortifying against future damage, personal property loss for renters, or unemployment.
"This is something that's happened to them that's beyond their control that's devestating. Don't feel like it's a hand out, it's just their tax dollars at work helping them," says FEMA employee and manager of the Rockford's disaster recovery center, Sarah Ann Taylor-Charvis.
But flood victim Rick Gonzalez says FEMA offered him far too little money. He visited Rockford's center Thursday hoping for more.
That's more than Townsend and many of her neighbors want to do. Townsend registered with FEMA but doesn't believe they'll help.
"I have no intention of going over there. I think it would just raise my blood pressure more. Everywhere we've turned to get help we keep getting denied so why am I going to go to one more place that's just gonna deny us again for any help," says Townsend.
Townsend thinks she'll be denied because she has insurance, though not enough to cover repairs. But a representative from the U.S. Small Business Association, also at the recovery centers to offer low-interest loans, says victims will never know what they can get until they register with FEMA.
"Don't let frustration get the better of you. Speak to the representatives. We may have extended dollars outside of where you are with your insurance," says Edward Greg Dawson of the S.B.A.
Register with FEMA over the phone at 1-800-621-3362, or at www.fema.gov by October 29th. Sixteen people visited Rockford's recovery center Thursday. Twenty-six people stopped in at the Freeport center. 484 people in Winnebago and Stephenson Counties have applied. So far the agency has approved giving out close to $470,000 in grants.


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